Demos are a funny beast. Sometimes so shambolically awful they’re painful to listen to, sometimes just damn odd. But sometimes, they let the listener discover a real gem that is an artist with complete freedom, doing it for the love rather than the money. The bio on Captain Polariod’s website shows a belief in this: “I am not interested in record labels or being on the cover of the NME. All I want is for people to hear and appreciate what I have to say in the only way I know how.” Pretentious; maybe. Refreshing; definitely.
In fact, refreshing is a perfect way to describe this “collection of my low-fi ramblings”, as the Captain himself calls it. It’s clear that his strength doesn’t lie in creating a killer melody or catchy hook for each song, although the Bright Eyes alike “Yes” or soaring chorus of “On The Wall Hangs A Broken Clock” show he does have the capability to do so. Rather, Captain Polaroid’s talent is in the mood and tone he is able to convey to the listener, mainly through his painfully honest lyrics. Take “On The Wall…” for example, whose words are so self-deprecating and confessional it’s possible to believe that the Captain grabbed the clock and whacked himself over the head with it after recording just to put himself out of his misery, singing as he does “My wall is lined with people I would rather be instead of me, instead of this monstrosity” . But, somehow, he never lapses into Morrissey-esq self-pity; he has the ability to share empathy with the listener rather than beg for it. There are also times when the subject becomes fiercely political, as track “Call This A Democracy” and the line “So let’s all curse the establishment” from “Yes” show. But once again, the Captain somehow gets away with this indoctrination of his views, because it is clear that in choosing not to play the fame game (and by making it available for £2.50 from his website, clearly not doing it for the financial incentive either), he is cursing the establishment; he may be many things, but Captain Polaroid is no hypocrite.
There are flaws here. At times the whole thing is a little too low-key, and Captain Polaroid perhaps puts too much reliance on just his occasionally brittle voice and acoustic guitar to craft a song. However, these songs are not designed to be a work of technical genius. Rather, they really mean something, not because they are life changing or make any world-shattering statements, but because they mean something to the artist who created them. This is a work of grace and conviction, a work which is far too subtle and complicated to be understood in a small number of listens, and whose imperfections add to rather than detract from it. Long live the demo.